Will Smith has revealed he would “understand” if audiences wanted to skip his new movie following his controversial slap at the Academy Awards ceremony in March.
The actor infamously hit Chris Rock after the comedian made a joke at the expense of Smith’s wife, Jada Pinkett-Smith, overshadowing his Best Actor win for King Richard.
Eight months on, Smith is now promoting Emancipation, his first film since the incident, and he hopes that it will be successful despite admitting he can’t blame audiences for steering clear.
“I completely understand [not watching the film],” he told Good Day DC. “If someone is not ready, I would absolutely respect that and allow them their space to not be ready.”
He added, “My deepest hope is that my actions don’t penalize my team. I’m hoping that the material, timeliness, and power of the film, as well as the good that can be done, would open people’s hearts to recognize and support the incredible artists in and around this film.”
Emancipation, which is being released on Apple TV+, sees Smith play an enslaved man who escapes from a Louisiana plantation in the 1860s, making his way to the Union Army in the North after a treacherous journey.
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Based on a true story, the film will also star Ben Foster, Charmaine Bingwa, and The Walking Dead‘s Steven Ogg, with the script by William N Collage.
Director Antoine Fuqua, best known for The Equalizer and Training Day, recently defended the release of Emancipation following Smith’s controversy, revealing that the option to axe the film was never considered by Apple.
“There was never a conversation with me and Apple or my producers…about the movie not coming out,” he disclosed. “My conversation was always, ‘Isn’t 400 years of slavery, of brutality, more important than one bad moment?’”
Emancipation will be released in select theatres on December 2 before streaming on Apple TV+ on December 9.
George Lewis is a freelance news writer at Digital Spy.